Radio Week: The unsurprising endurance of good radio

The death of radio was cited over 60 years ago when television first came to New Zealand, yet from then it has only grown from strength to strength as the platform evolves, easily keeping up with the change of consumer habits. Here, radio futurologist James Cridland and Jana Rangooni of the Radio Broadcasters Association talk to us on radios endurance in our current landscape.

Radio’s endurance has not been an easy feat for the service. In fact, many cite that the reason video didn’t kill the radio star is because of how hard radio has worked to evolve with the times and suit a new wave of listeners, rather than just relying on old tricks to stay relevant.

Jana Rangooni, CEO of the Radio Broadcasters Association (RBA) says since her start in the sector in 1987 some core functions have stayed the same, yet a lot has been altered to fit new consumption habits.

Jana Rangooni

“Years ago a music radio station listener in a focus group said to me ‘What people want is really simple. Tell me what’s going on in the world. Make me laugh then shut up and play a good song.’ Our audiences are changing in terms of the choices they make, the technology and platforms are changing and the way we can do our jobs is changing too. We have far better data and technology available to us to be better at what we do.”

Rangooni says one of the reasons radio has been able to stay relevant is because those in the sector love change, working fast, and figuring out new ways to do things.

“We have tended to embrace new technology and look at how we can use it to be more connected to our audiences… Radio has been far more about constant evolution and continuous improvement.”

“There have  been some pretty big game-changing moments but when you look back on them now they just seem like smart decisions.”

Jana Rangooni

She says that general ignorance is the reason radio was expected to die out in the first place, as “it’s really easy to throw around opinions about something you don’t really know anything about.”

Radio futurologist, James Cridland agrees with Rangooni that when it comes to expecting radio to die out, commentators are often at fault.

James Cridland

“Commentators who claim that radio is ‘dead’ don’t understand the unique bond between radio listeners and their favourite stations, nor the habits, formed over decades, that keep people listening to the radio. 9 out of 10 people listen to the radio every week in most countries, and that shows no signs of changing.”

Cridland, who has worked internationally around the sector over the last 30 years has seen many changes in radio that have effected how its perceived, including, of course, the updated technology.

“When I started, we edited audio on tape and played vinyl singles. The only computer in the studio was a little handheld personal organiser that I took in with some notes on it. Things have vastly changed in terms of technology.

“The same’s true in terms of how we consume radio. It was only AM and FM back them; now radio is on almost any device with a speaker in it – from smart speakers to mobile phone apps. Radio’s been fast at adapting to the opportunities from the internet and online.”

Cridland says although the technology has advanced the simplicity of radio has stayed the same, and that is one of the reasons he thinks its endured as well as it has.

“Radio’s simplicity is also its strength as it can quickly adapt to deal with new technology and new ideas. We’re seeing that right now, with many radio presenters doing their programmes from home, rather than going to the studio.”

But this simplicity is still paired with the importance that is placed around making sure there is a human connection between what is produced and who is listening.

“The fundamental thing that makes a radio a success is radio’s ability to have a human connection and produce a shared experience. No other media has the human connection that radio does: no other media is used to keep you company and to entertain you in such a way.”

Rangooni has a similar outlook to why radio has endured so well, which for her isn’t just thinking of radio as a small device, but rather a content based platform that can connect with audiences of all types of backgrounds at the turn of a dial.

“The platforms and devices will keep changing  but no one can aggregate news and information, engaging personalities, music, promotions, advertising and so much more into a package that is tailored to different “tribes” of people and so accessible 24/7… We have never thought of radio as the device you listened to us on, or the FM Transmitter. Radio to us and our audiences, is the brands and content you consume and how they connect with that.”

This story is part of a content partnership with The Radio Bureau.

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